FBI warns of “Zoom-bombers” as online classes in Massachusetts are hacked by strangers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (WLNE) – The FBI in Boston is now warning people of online classroom hackers after two incidents were reported at Massachusetts schools.

In Foxborough, an email was sent to parents warning them that a stranger had hijacked an 8th-grade Zoom class, sharing disturbing images with students.

“The person transmitted news footage of the Christchurch Mosque shooting that took place in New Zealand last year, and also posted a racist epithet and anti-Semitic language,” wrote Superintendent of Foxborough schools, Amy Berdos.

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Jack Austin, a student in that class, told WHDH that the stranger had shared their phone screen not once, but twice, in a row.

“Yesterday, he was just showing inappropriate pictures to the class. Today was… there was a shooting in New Zealand. It was just very inappropriate in the class.”

Austin said he and his fellow classmates decided to leave the class.

“We were just there to learn and it wasn’t helping. Like the teacher was struggling with the material in class, so everyone just left.”

The other incident, the Boston Globe reports, involved a high school teacher who was interrupted by a hacker who “yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address.”

The FBI in Boston is investigating what many are calling “Zoom-bombing”, saying it’s an ongoing issue for schools who are turning to online platforms for distance learning.

Diane Santurri, associate professor at Johnson & Wales in the technology department, said it’s important for teachers to make their Zoom conferences password protected.

“Having a password is really important when you’re setting up video conferencing, specifically with that tool, because that will avoid any issues with people trying to get in and interrupt or take control of your video conference.”

Santurri said it’s also crucial to make sure the app is up to date, and the district’s network security supports it. But most of all, do your research before logging on.

“Make sure you’ve done your research. Search and find, are there issues with this tool that you’re going to be using?”

The Foxborough School District did not respond to our request for comment, but in an email to parents said they’re working with Zoom and the district’s technology expert, along with teachers and police to stop this from happening again.

For a link to the FBI’s warning, click here.

© WLNE-TV 2020

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